be free, lance / constructing moodboards

I share a lot of my in progress moodboards from client projects and have been asked several times what my process is like, so I thought NOW would be the perfect time to share! I have a secret project going on right now and have developed this pinterest board and the above moodboard to help us demonstrate how I go about creating inspirational boards with the help of clients. Do note that this is how I go about creating moodboards, but it’s certainly not the only way.

* It’s important to note that before I begin the inspirational phase with clients ( moodboard development ), we’ve already been discussing the project in depth and they have already completed a very detailed questionnaire that allows me to strategize and clearly see a direction their business + brand should take. The moodboard makes it visual.

STEP ONE Have your client create a completely new pinboard specifically for their project with you. It can be public or secret, depending on how much they want to share with the world. Have them fill the board with typography, color, and any imagery that they believe “fits” their aesthetic. I always have my clients start pinning AFTER we’ve talked about a style + direction, so that they have a good sense of what to pin. This helps keep things consistent rather than chaotic.

STEP TWO Once the client is finished pinning, I have them invite me to the board. I go in and make simple observations based on what they’ve pinned. What kind of typography pops up most? Are the colors they like prevalent? Is anything confusing or conflicting? I take all of these things ( and more ) into account and leave a couple comments here and there below pins that relate to what I’m seeing. The role of these questions and comments is to further define their direction and make sure we’re on the same page.

STEP THREE I inform my client that I’ve made some comments on the board and simply have them comment back with answers. Nine times out of ten, I now feel confident that we’re on the same page and I understand what needs to happen to best move forward.

STEP FOUR Most of the time, clients pin upwards of 25-50 pins for their project. After we’ve looked at everything and clarified any questions, it’s time to narrow things down. I tell them to reduce their board to only 10-15 pins tops, which really forces them to focus on all of the design details and pick out the most consistent pins.

STEP FIVE Once there are only 10-15 pins left in the pinboard, I go in and add ( usually 5-10 ) NEW pins on my own. Since we’ve been back and forth and agree on the style + aesthetic, this is the last test to make sure we’re on the same page. If the client approves my pins, we’re ready to make a moodboard.

STEP SIX You’d be surprised at how different a pinterest board and moodboard can actually feel, visually. Pinterest has quite a bit of padding between images and most people don’t arrange images to purposely sit next to other images. With moodboards, it’s all about rearranging images and creating a board that’s a perfect mixture of type, color, and aesthetic. It’s a small work of art that defines the direction of a brand.

STEP SEVEN Once the moodboard is finished, I present it to my client and ask if there is anything that feels off or that they would remove. Like I mentioned before, sometimes images that seemed perfect on pinterest may not work anymore alongside other photographs. If there are any changes, I make them. If not, it’s time to start the actual design process!

I know this process may seem like it takes a bit of time, but it’s actually really quick. The first five steps really only take a couple days, while putting the moodboard together takes a few hours. Not bad!

  1. Using pinterest along with clients sounds like a brilliant idea! I’ll probably be trying it out as long as my next clients won’t turn out to be old fashioned paper and pen mid fifties guys..

  2. Leanda says:

    As usual, brilliant advice Bre! I’d never considered using Pinterest in this way :)

  3. Kirsty says:

    This is so helpful. I’ve been developing a bit of a styling portfolio on the side of my very boring, corporate day job, and I’ve always used Pinterest as a way to brainstorm with the “client” (do they count as a client if they’re not paying you? Umm…). Anyhoo, narrowing it down to a moodboard is the logical next step, but it’s not always easy to filter the inspiration overload on Pinterest. This workflow makes a lot of sense to me, even though I’m working in a different creative field from graphic design.

    P.S. I love love love your blog and your aesthetic. Lovely stuff.

  4. alicia says:

    Hi!

    Wow, thanks for sharing that in so much detail. It does seem like a very long process lol but I’m sure it’s not so bad. I know this is supposed to be the fun stuff for clients but do you ever get these clients that believe this is your job and they don’t want to get involved in this stuff?(basically lazy and don’t want to make time for this) Also what if your client isn’t a creative type and doesn’t have pinterest?

    After having clients fill out a questionnaire I usually just go ahead and do the moodboard. So far they’ve always been happy with it and it’s the direction we’ve choose but I do think it would help so much if they were more involved in the process.

    Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely be referencing it in the future.
    Any chance you’ll share a little peek into your client questions some day? :)

    Alicia
    http://www.alicia-carvalho.com

    • bre says:

      Hey Alicia,
      Thanks!

      I’ve never had a client NOT want to pull inspirational images for me, actually. I think since design is an investment, they are willing to put work into the end result if it helps streamline things. If a client doesn’t have pinterest, I have them put images into a folder on their desktop and just zip it my way when finished. Same process without pinterest!

  5. This is crazy awesome! I love hearing about your process – your moodboards are always gorgeous! :)

  6. kaylee says:

    thanks for sharing, bre! this seems like a really fun (& important) process for any sort of project. i do design & video, and making a moodboard like this seems like a perfect way to figure out a short film as well. :)

    -k

  7. joy @ OSS says:

    Thanks Bre for doing this! It’s so interesting to take a glimpse behind the process. I would love to try and do some moodboards in the future.

  8. juliet says:

    Thanks for another informative post. Pretty soon I’m going to feel the need to put “studied at the school of Breanna Rose” on my resume! You’re full of great info & tips!

  9. Long time no comment! Another wonderful post and helpful to many out there. It’s funny how simular my process is too, and sometimes its slightly different depending on the client, which makes it more fun somehow. Can’t wait to see Michael’s final look :)

  10. Do-Hee says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! Really highlights the collaborative nature of design.

  11. Christina says:

    This seems like a really nice idea, I’ve never done a moodboard for a client thus far… I usually discuss with them and ask for ideas from other blog or the feeling they want it to have… Some clients know exactly what they want and we can discuss more details like specific fonts, graphic designs etc, but others are not so into design/creativity and don’t have something special in mind.. They just throw some ideas and then tell me to do whatever I think works best…! When I feel inspired that’s really nice because I can be really creative! But when I’m really blank and can’t find anything to inspire me, sometimes I’m afraid the final design won’t stand up to my stadards and it’ll be “less perfect”.. so a pin board sounds like a really good idea…!

  12. Cristina says:

    Yay! I’m starting to make my own moodboards and this post has me all jazzed! Thanks for sharing :o)

  13. Pink + Lola says:

    I love using Pinterest with my clients. The difference was that we exchanged comments through emails. Love the idea of commenting on the images itself (should be obvious! O.o)
    Thanks for sharing! :) You rock!

  14. Andrea says:

    Hi Breanna, very interesting article, especially as you talk about involving the client in the process. That’s very innovative and the most effective way to go. In case you’re interested, we just launched a tool for creative professionals to build mood boards in a collaborative way: it’s called Musepeak (www.musepeak.com). If you could give it a try, we’d love to have your expert feedback on! Thanks a lot

  15. Andrea says:

    Hi Breanna, very interesting article, especially as you talk about involving the client in the process. That’s very innovative and the most effective way to go. In case you’re interested, we just launched a tool for creative professionals to build mood boards in a collaborative way: it’s called Musepeak (www.musepeak.com). If you could give it a try, we’d love to have your expert feedback on! Thanks a lot

  16. Melanie Lea says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this lady! I utilize Pinterest for my design clients already, but haven’t really gotten into mood boards. It makes sense though for clarification of the direction things should be going in. This post is really insightful and will be very helpful I’m sure : )

  17. Yes, awesome! I started doing this a couple of months ago after being inspired by your mood boards. They’re so fun to make and I love the process and the idea of capturing the essence of a brand and imagining the entire environment even before the designing begins. My clients love them too.

  18. kate says:

    Have you ever shared your questionnaire before or a bit of it? I feel like mine needs an update as it seems to lead to clients saying “here is a logo I like, basically just copy it”. I’m so curious as to what other designers are asking to kick projects off.

  19. Sophie says:

    Hi Breanna, thanks for sharing your moodboards… It’s lovely and very inspiring.
    Your boards seem very well structured – do you use grids to dvp them?
    Thanks

  20. Jamie B says:

    This is so great! I’m about to start a branding project for a client and I’m going to try this. I don’ t know if you ever take request for your be free, lance column, but I would love to see what your questionnaire looks like and how the whole initial process goes.

  21. [...] in case you missed it, check out this post about my moodboard process I shared with you all a couple weeks ago. I get asked about it a lot, so [...]

  22. Ahja L. says:

    Hello Breanna:

    I first want to say that I enjoyed reading this series. I’ve actually gone through and read more of them, but I plan to go and read the rest up to this point. This post in particular as well as the process on your website has given me the idea to develop a better plan of attack for when handling client projects.

    Thanks
    My question to you is, what type of process do you apply when working on personal projects? If you have time to work on personal projects. Do/would you take the same approach as this if you are rebranding something that you see online that you think looks horrible? Or would you take a different approach?

    Also, how would you get a client to be more interactive with you? Have you ever had to deal with clients that don’t have all of the information ready but have already provided you with the initial deposit?